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4/26/2010
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RightScale Opens Cloud Management Platform

A cloud management platform makes workload building and monitoring tools available for general use.

RightScale, the supplier of an online platform where cloud users prepare, launch, and monitor workloads in public clouds, has opened up the use of its platform for customers and partners who want to prepare and launch cloud servers on their own.

In the past RightScale customers were restricted to using the RightScale platform as their monitoring and management platform for use with particular clouds, Amazon Web Services' EC2, Rackspace or GoGrid. Now they can prepare a workload with RightScale tools and launch it internally or wherever else it can run, while still getting monitoring and managing capabilities through a link to the RightScale management platform.

The move is likely to widen the use of RightScale workload preparation templates and tools, intellectual property in which the company has made a major investment. RightScale normally collects 3.3 cents an hour for the use of its platform on top of what the cloud service is charging. No such fees will directly result from the broadening of the platform's free availability. Whether it will result in greater revenues to the company in the long run appears to be a risk that the company is willing to embrace.

In one potential use, CEO Michael Crandell pointed out that Amazon Web Services' catalog of applications has over a thousand already prepared as Amazon Machine Images, ready to run in EC2. Through the free use of the RightScale Cloud Management Platform, its partners and customers can link them to the RightScale platform and monitor them as they run.

Crandell said in an interview that RightScale's approach to the cloud marketplace is adopting an approach "much like the open source model," where core intellectual property is made available for free. RightScale is counting on increased use of its platform to accelerate use of cloud computing, and that in turn will result in businesses that want fully supported service from RightScale rather than just do-it-yourself tools.

IBM's Leon Katsnelson, program director of IBM cloud enablement and data services, pointed out a likely use of the platform. IBM's DB2 is available as an application selection in Amazon's catalog, but customers who use it go through a multistep process of building an Amazon Machine Image around their database application, then an AMI around the application server and then commission a pre-built DB2 database server. If the application is demanding, they might decide on commissioning more than one application server or more than one DB2 server to work with it but each server must be built separately.

"In EC2, you provision one server at a time. With the RightScale platform, you can provision a Web server, an application server and a database server with a load balancer in front," then launch the combination in EC2 from the platform. ... With RightScale, it's much easier to make multi-image deployments," said Katsnelson in an interview. Multiple applications servers activated as a unit would allow a database application to scale more easily, he added.

With the deployment linked to the RightScale platform after deployment, platform users can monitor how well they're running. IBM has partnered with RightScale as a way to better enable customers to deploy DB2 in the cloud.

"The customer sees each virtual machine as if it were a real one. We tell them, it's the same as a real machine, except you don't hear the fan," when they use the RightScale platform to monitor and manage DB2.

Crandell pointed out another instance where customers may wish to use the platform. Customers, such as Eli Lilly, build their own virtual appliances to send to the cloud. Given the regulatory requirements applied to a pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly needs to be able to "validate what's inside that executable image." If an intruder launched what he said was an Eli Lilly virtual workload and it sought patient data it wasn't authorized to use, the company could end up liable for a breach of data confidentiality in the cloud.

By using the RightScale cloud platform, a company such as Eli Lilly could build workloads and confirm they contained the correct application, operating system and middleware, and then launch workloads in EC2 or some other cloud.

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